Thursday, May 24 , 2018, 5:34 am | Overcast 58º


Local News

Santa Barbara Bowl Partners with OTOjOY to Help People with Hearing Loss

Hearing loop technology benefits concert-goers with cochlear implants and hearing aids

Concert-goers with cochlear implants and hearing aids were able to fully enjjoy the recent Blondie concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl, above, utilizing new hearing loop technology installed by locally based OTOjOY. Click to view larger
Concert-goers with cochlear implants and hearing aids were able to fully enjjoy the recent Blondie concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl, above, utilizing new hearing loop technology installed by locally based OTOjOY. (Steve Kennedy photo)

When Santa Barbara resident Nora McNeely Hurley attended a live Radiohead concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl earlier this year, the listening experience was different than the ones before.

This time, she could hear clearly.

That’s because she was utilizing hearing loop technology that allows concert-goers with cochlear implants and hearing aids to hear the production as the sound is projected directly to their hearing devices using magnetic fields. 

OTOjOY, a Santa Barbara-based company, has placed the wiring for the hearing loop system throughout the 4,562-seat amphitheater.

“I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the bowl for decades, however, was forced to give up going to concerts as I could not make sense of music,” Hurley wrote in a statement. “I could discern each instrument being played and heard them clearly thanks to the hearing loop.”

By flipping a switch on hearing aids or cochlear implants, the device turns into wireless earphones that broadcast sound customized for the wearer's hearing loss.

OTOjOY's founder Thomas Kaufmann contacted the venue to let him install the program. The company placed a hearing loop system free of charge in the preferred seating section last year as a trial for the venue to evaluate it and receive feedback from guests.

The positive response prompted the bowl to upgrade the system and cover every seat in the amphitheater, Kaufmann said. The technology was turned on earlier this year.

“The bowl now provides full and truly equal access for their patrons with hearing loss, since they can simply walk into the venue, choose any seat they like, and press a button on their own hearing device to receive the music directly into their ears,” Kaufmann said. “They don't draw attention to their invisible disability and can participate and experience the show like anybody else.”

The company has installed the system at various other theaters, public buildings and venues throughout California. 

“While the technology has been available for many decades and is widespread in Europe, it is still relatively new to the U.S.,” Kaufmann said. “Most people have no idea that approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population are affected by hearing loss, and how much they struggle to understand speech in the presence of background noise or enjoy music in large spaces.”

The Santa Barbara Bowl is the largest outdoor amphitheater in the U.S. offering the audio loop to guests, bowl Executive Director Rick Boller said.

“Our goal is to make the music accessible to all of our patrons,” Boller said. “It’s exciting because it opens up a world of possibilities. Previously, we had to ask patrons to relocate to certain areas.”

Boller said the bowl also supplies looped headset devices to concert-goers if they don’t have their own hearing devices. 

“It’s a free service — just ask any of our volunteer ushers,” Boller said.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >